Wushu is the term given to the general compound of Chinese martial arts. People can break it down into two sections – sanda and taolu. While the former refers to the combative side, the ladder includes the technical aspect.

Dating back to centuries ago, wushu has a long history and has many different names. The Western world mostly using the terms ‘kung fu’ and ‘martial arts’ interchangeably. People created wushu for the sake of survival, as many ancient Chinese struggled to live in an age of weaponry. In order to fend for themselves and be able to subdue their enemies, they taught basic techniques to many common layman of what we know as martial arts today.

Over the years, this combative practice transformed into something more and different. It is taking the rich history of ancient China to become a branch of the performance arts and sports.

What is Wushu Taolu?

Daria Tarasova wushu taolu

Wushu taolu is a set of connecting stylized movements choreographed according to certain laws, embodying the philosophical connotation of attack and defense.” (International Wushu Federation)

Taolu focuses on the techniques and movements that provide the practitioner the ability to thoroughly defend and attack whilst carrying a weapon, as well as bare-handed. Comprising of many forms, there are a total of 11 routines. A user must familiarize themselves with the forms, under one of the four categories: bare-hands, short weapons, long weapons, and dui lian.

Originally shortened from the expression, ‘Tao Lu Yun Dong,’ meaning ‘exercise sets’. Unlike today, they mainly taught the aspect of forms to higher level students or users. They would be able to learn through various forms of application. Quite the opposite to sandu, forms gives the practitioner the ability to review techniques by both literal and hand-on learning.

Back before, due to its less pragmatic nature – in comparison to sanda – they didn’t believe forms to be as vital. In regards to training, wushu taolu had less prominence. But over the years, practitioners have found the extra benefits they obtain through taolu. Not only did users improve their physical and mental flexibility, their bodies became much more coordinated. Besides these aforementioned benefits, training in forms can also increase areas of balance and reflexes.

Competitive Wushu Taolu

wushu taolu
Photo Credit: Brandon Sugiyama

Wushu Taolu consists of many forms, and you may know different techniques dependent on the Wushu school you attend.

However, in competitive wushu, there are a list of forms that people consider for an evaluation. Usually categorized in two levels of championships – junior and senior – the International Wushu Federation determine the mandatory preselected sequenced forms that those in the junior levels (age 18 and under) are performing.. There is much more creative liberty for senior level performers, as they usually compete with self-choreographed routines.

Usually, when it comes to evaluation, judges pay close attention to the categories of speed, power, coordination, balance, and positioning. Since wushu taolu is a performance art, there is also a level of enthusiasm and energy when executing these techniques for better scoring.

wushu taolu

In the World Wushu Championships, the main categories people are performing in are: Chang Quan (long fist), Nan Quan (south fist), Taiji Quan (Tai Chi Chuan), Taiji Jian (Tai Chi Straight Sword), Daoshu (Broadsword), Jianshu (Straight sword), Gunshu (Cudgel), Qiangshu (Spear), Nandao (Southern Broadsword), Nangun (Southern Cudgel), Duilian (Choreographed Sparring), Baguazhang (Eight Trigrams Palm), Shuang Jian (Double Straight Swords), Chun Qiu Da Dao (Spring & Autumn Halberd),  Xingyi Quan (Shape & Intent Fist).

Wushu has undoubtedly gained massive popularity in the West. It becomes more prevalent in media and the International Olympic Commitee (IOC) even considers it as a competitive sport. Organizations like the International Wushu Federation (IWUF) continue to persist in pushing wushu into the limelight, resubmitting proposals every opportunity.

More people flock to lay their eyes on this unique blend of ancient Chinese practices and the present principles. It is only a matter of time until it becomes the modern sport of tomorrow.

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